Monday, December 3, 2018

Accidental Solo

Yesterday in worship we were slated to sing 3 verses of It Came Upon a Midnight Clear, but I did not get the memo.  (I wrote the memo, but did not get it.) I started verse 4 alone with GREAT GUSTO.

When I realized no one else was singing I attempted a smooth decrescendo.  (It was not.)  The congregation watched as I tried to appear normal whilst melting into a puddle.  

After some thought I rejoice in this mistake.

I rejoice because I'm a perfectionist and don't like messing up--especially in front of people.  This is a growth area for me.  Recently I was playing the piano with the praise band in the worship service (way out of my comfort zone) and made a noticeable error. I skipped the intro and led everyone astray.  It was not a big deal, but that mistake almost undid me.  I was apologizing during the service.  Yikes.

It's embarrassing to admit that.  

So I've been praying God would help focus me on God during worship--not my mistakes or what's next or the announcement I forgot to make.  

And it seems God answered me yesterday.  When I belted out verse 4 of It Came Upon a Midnight Clear, I forgot for a minute to think about myself.  I was happily celebrating the Christ child.  

God answered my prayer.  

I'm grateful for a merciful God who is faithful to answer prayers--even if it means an accidental solo.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Living with the Sermon


For the most part I'm an optimist.  I keep on the sunny side.  I like when frowns turn upside down.  The glass is half full.  

You get my drift. 

Optimists look forward with hope, but we sometimes hesitate to name what is difficult. So I’m stretching today: Sermon-writing is difficult.

Recently a young minister asked me "Do you ever feel inadequate as a pastor?"

"Every day.  Every Sunday.  Every sermon."  I said it so quickly I didn't think to keep on the sunny side.

On Thursdays it feels as if the sermon will never come together.  There’s rambling in my rough draft (if I have one).  My ideas are unclear.  My illustrations seem forced.  It feels like pulling teeth to get a paragraph together.

Of course the sermon comes together—something has to by Sunday—but it’s worrisome each week.  The whole process is humbling, and perhaps especially so for a perfectionist who also struggles with pride.  

Sermons live with me 24/7.  Sometimes people tell me to forget about the sermon for a bit.  People say this because they care about me, but forgetting the sermon is like forgetting I have an arm or a leg.  The sermon is always part of me which makes it heavy to carry; and at the same time the weight is what gives it meaning.  

Sermon-writing is a constant back and forth with the Holy Spirit.  "Is that me talking or you talking?  Am I listening to you or am I just trying to be clever?"  This conversation continues Sunday mornings even as worship begins.  

During worship hundred thoughts come to mind.  I remember afresh the man who's waiting on test results.  I notice the woman staring off in the distance.   I see smiles and grief in the same pew.   I can tell when the teenager would rather be anywhere else.  I sense the closeness of some families and the gaping distance between others.  I scratch out a paragraph.  I underline a sentence to emphasize.  I wonder what good news will sound like for _____ today. 

All of this is part of the sermon-writing process.

Sermon-writing is difficult, but here's what is also true: Sermon-writing is a joy.  Once I reach the pulpit and start preaching the Holy Spirit bolsters me.  It's incredible, and for those 20 minutes I'm in the groove.  

Before the sermon?  Different story.  

After the sermon?  Different story, but during...THAT is the sweet spot. 

As an optimist, I'm tempted to tie all of this up with a big red bow.  No need.  You know I love sermon-writing.  It is a sacred privilege, but it is not easy.  

Most good things aren't.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Six Years of Joy

It's been six years today.

I have pastored Scottsville Baptist Church for six years.  

As I type those words, I can hardly believe them.

I knew I loved 'em when I met 'em, and happily God has grown that love with each passing year.  They see memy flaws and giftsand I see them.  This is no longer honeymoon-stage love:  Six years is a long time.  A long-term pastorate is a gift.  I am grateful.

To celebrate, I wanted to share a few moments of captured joy:
Dorothy was the Co-Chair of the Pastor Search Committee.  As I transitioned to Scottsville, Dorothy said she would look for ways to support me.  
Here's what she's done:
Every Monday for six years (that's 312 Mondays) Dorothy has sent me a note of encouragement.  She often reflects on the sermon or good things going on in the church.  She'll ask how I'm doing or insist I take a day off.  
You can't imagine what these 312 plus emails have meant to me.
This is Easter 2013.  I had been at the church for about four months. 
It was a dreary day, but I'm glad we snapped a photo. 
We were just getting started on our journey together.  
Here we are at my Installation Service.  The Lord called me to Scottsville, and Bill Smith was a big part of the Lord's work.  Bill bent over backwards to help make it happen.  I am grateful for such a wise mentor and friend. 

This is also from my Installation Service.  These pastors have been a source of encouragement, hope, understanding, and friendship.



I don't remember much about our first Deacons' Retreat, but this photo brings me inordinate amounts of joy.  

In late 2013 God called Hallie and Matthew to our church.  I could see Hallie's gifts for ministry right away, and the church called her to serve. 
We designed her ministry to focus on families, and at first we didn't have many but we stepped out on faith. 


And I'm glad we did because God called most of these folks to the church in 2014-2015.  It was an incredible season of growththanks be to God. 
We started a Sunday School Class, and a lot of joy was born of this season.

Sometimes we played kickball after business meetings.  That was fun.

In the summer of 2014 we took a trip to Washington, D.C. 
Since that trip I've had the privilege of baptizing both
Robbie Via Sr. and Robbie Via Jr. and officiating two Via weddings. 
The gift of a long pastorate is being welcomed into wonderfully holy moments
in people's lives.


Speaking of holy moments:  I love when seniors and young people bond. 
30-year olds sitting with 90-year olds is our jam.
Our seniors are among the best. 
Some pictured in this post have gone on to glory.  We love and miss them.


Here we are in October 2015 celebrating 175 years
of Scottsville Baptist Church. 

We have had fun with Baptist Men's Day and Baptist Women's Day. 
Here are both our men and women belting out praise to God.
I love that all ages and stages are represented.


Baptist Women's Choir

We've enjoyed leading different genres of music in our worship. 
Pictured above is our Handbellz Group. 
Simply seeing these matching t-shirts reaffirms my love for Scottsville.

I love that the church is open to experiencing various elements of worship.


On December 24th we'll host a Christmas Eve Service. 
It is a meaningful evening. 
We'll share communion, sing carols, listen to scripture, and proclaim Jesus' birth.

As the home church of Lottie Moon, we hope to carry on the tradition of sharing the good news of Jesus Christ with the world.  This year we partnered with Virginia Baptists in helping with flood relief in both Texas and North Carolina. 


In September we braved the rain for a Nats game.  Because there were only 10 people total at the game, ushers invited us down from the nosebleeds to sit in the best seats!  Victoria said she could smell Bryce's shampoo. 
Yes it poured cats and dogs shortly after this picture was taken,
but what a glorious 20 minutes it was.

This is a picture from the 2018 Deacons' Retreat. 
I am inspired by their humility and leadership, and 
I can't tell you how many times I've relied on their wisdom. 
Their listening ears have been a gift to this verbally-processing pastor. 

I am grateful for all those God has called to serve as a deacon.  


These are just a few snapshots.  There are hundreds more.  Thanks be to God for calling me to this place and these people.  

Thursday, June 14, 2018

It Is No Small Task

In the small church cooperation is essential.  Most aspects of our life together are lay-lead (how Baptist!) and require everyone's participation.  No one can really ride the pine in a small church, and here's the great news:  At Scottsville Baptist I continually see folks bending over backwards to serve God.  It is no small task to lead the small church, but together (and only together!) we do it.

Here are a few examples that come to mind today:

It is no small task to mow the church and parsonage lawns each week, but together we do it. 


It is no small task to host a Vacation Bible School for the community, but together we do it.


It is no small task to recruit nursery workers and teachers for our growing children's ministry, but together we do it.


It is no small task to paint the window sills.  It is no small task to clean out the garbage cans, replace hard-to-reach lightbulbs, and sweep up messes you didn't make, but together we do it.


We are growing and grateful, and there is nothing small about our love for God.  What a privilege to pastor Scottsville Baptist!

Monday, June 11, 2018

Shipwrecked Boat Destroys Television

I love a party theme.  Any time I can color-coordinate utensils, create table decor, and cheese-up the parsonage in general is a win.  Want an Epiphany photo booth?  I'm your lady.  How about Olympic-themed snacks?  I've got you covered.  Did you want matching airbrushed shirts on family vacation? (This is a goal for summer 2018.) 

So...

when I offered to host a send-off for Bruce & Alessandra, I insisted on a theme.  'Sail Away' was chosen and I was a happy camper since the VBS theme is 'Shipwrecked'!  And thanks to VBS Director, Hallie, I had an anchor, palm trees, and a giant cardboard cutout of a ship with which to decorate.  Mind you this ship is wrecked--so it wasn't exactly sailing anywhere--but close enough, right?

The party came and went (fun!), but as I folded up the 'Shipwrecked' cutout I knocked my television to the ground.  The screen cracked and the television is toast.  Stick a fork in it:  It's done.  

GRRR.  I was so mad at myself.  First:  Why did I insist on a theme?  Second:  The ship was WRECKED.  There would be no sailing in this ship.  This cutout was the antithesis of the theme.  Third:  Why did I not catch the television as it plummeted to the ground?  Fourth:  Why?

Here's the culprit in all its destructive glory
Have you ever been mad at yourself?  Have you ever replayed a mistake or misstep ad infinitum?  If only I'd NOT insisted on a theme; if only I'd caught the television, if only, if only, if only...and this was an accident.  What about those times we're mad at ourselves for good reason?  What about those times we say the wrong thing or do the wrong thing?  GRRR.  I can get so mad at myself.  It can be hard to let go, to move on, to accept forgiveness. 

The Bible theme of VBS is Jesus Rescues.  Starting tonight (!) we have the privilege of teaching children that Jesus rescues us from loneliness, worries, struggles, and wrongdoing.  And perhaps I'll have the opportunity to tell the kids Jesus also rescues us from our inability to let go of our mistakes and missteps--like snapping at someone, holding a grudge, or even something small in the grand scheme (for example:  breaking a television).  I'm grateful for this privilege.

See you this evening!

Monday, April 23, 2018

Emmaus Bound (and I didn't know it)

I was up and at 'em this morning at work on a sermon, but after a few hours I needed a break.  I decided to take a walk to the church, but as a devotee of multitasking I couldn't let this be a mere walk.  Let's make this walk productive! I can pick up a commentary, listen to a ministry podcast, and maybe burn a calorie or two.  Win, win, win!

I did not bat 1000 on this sojourn.  The podcast was okay but nothing to write home about and I ended up forgetting my office key at home.  Boo!  I waved goodbye to my Anchor Bible Dictionary through the window and turned around. 

That's when I ran in to one of our church members, Clarence.


Clarence was on a walk like me, but unlike me Clarence was actually on a walk.  He was unhurried and smiling.  His arms carried tools and supplies.  Seeing Clarence brightened my day.  Together we walked and talked most of the way to the parsonage.  

Yesterday I preached on the Emmaus story, and it occurs to me now that my trek-to-get-100-things-accomplished transformed (thanks be to God!) into an Emmaus walk with a fellow disciple.  

Sometimes I miss the forest for the trees in my quest to serve.  I'm grateful God is gracious to me anyway.  Thank you God for today's grace.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Musical Pews

After a meaningful Holy Week, we celebrated the resurrection of Jesus on Sunday.  What a joyous day!  The good news was palpable.

Since my brother and sister-in-law were visiting, I was excited about the prospect of sitting with family during worship.  One of my favorite things about vacation is going to church and sitting with my family.

Most of us like sitting with our families during worship and perhaps especially so on holidays.  Oftentimes family is visiting, we're gussied up in our Easter best, and we're looking forward to fun (egg hunting! ham!) with those we love. 

Our pews filled up quickly on Sunday so it eventually became difficult to find a place to sit.  During the welcome I saw someone searching for a place to sit, but thankfully she didn't have to look for long because one of our couples hopped right out of their pew to make room.  It happened so fast I might as well call it a reflex. 

This couple's race to give up their pew reminded me of the women at the tomb racing to tell the good news.  This couple, like the women, proclaimed the gospel with their feet.  They gave up their pew AND the opportunity to sit together (the wife sat with the visitor and the husband found a seat elsewhere).

What a gift to witness this unselfish act. 

And while it may seem like a little thing, I've found "little" things rarely are little.  They almost always point to a life of faithfulness in many "little" and big ways.